Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dear diary (part 3)

We have soldiered on to week 3, and here is what Papua New Guinea did to me.

After hearing so many good things about the made-to-order breakfast omelette, I decided to try it today and honestly it's not great—it was dry and there was really nothing inside except maybe a little bit of cheese and spring onions. Oh well it is back to the muesli-fruit mix I have every morning (I don't have breakfast back home and I have to force myself to eat something as I do weights in the mid-morning). Also, have I told you there is a moth invasion in the camp and it is not a sudden but everyday thing? There are moths EVERYWHERE, alive or dead and I hate it when one gets into my room and I fail to chase it away (some are huge but many of them are very pretty and exotic)! By the way the meeting in Brisbane has been cancelled and I no longer have to worry that I don't have any office-friendly clothes with me. Lesson learnt: unless you want to take your heavy uniform with you back home (because you have nothing else to wear for these meetings), prepare yourself with a set of business attire in case you need to stop by Brisbane for meetings on the way home. Anyway I finally finished tidying up the mess my back-to-back left me (my 12-hour work days paid off indeed)! Now I can move on to the next phase of that huge task ie. to load in the alarm changes into the application after the meeting to approve these changes have been conducted tomorrow (there was already a successfully pre-meeting so this one tomorrow is just a formality). Since it is only a token meeting, there is actually no real problem if I load in the alarm changes before they are formally-approved. An expert on this application has come on site today for one week (I don't really need him as I am familiar with the software but he has been requested by my back-to-back who knows nothing about it). The bad thing is that I have to chaperone him for two days until the actual person that is supposed to do it comes on site. This is how I will see this positively—I will just use this as an excuse to not do work!

Finally the day has come for the all-important job to get approved and then I can start on executing all the changes. All the required documentation is ready and I am raring to go. It has been great being able to use the system administrator license to access the application and not have to share it with Brisbane HQ. The best thing is I don't ever need to worry that I get kicked out by the system administrator because he is so lazy he hardly does any work (and hence doesn't really need to utilise that license)! Absolute win win! Now I know how much better life can be when you see the glass half-full. The token meeting held to seek approval of these changes sadly didn't happen today though the Production Superintendent was too busy and it was postponed to tomorrow. The visitor that I have been chaperoning all day behaved well and we had some good technical discussions. Because I don't drive, my work is already tied to the shuttle bus schedule and now I have another shadow that I must take care of, and this is making me quite unhappy. This was why I did my cardio at 5 am for the first time today so that I could get gym out of the way as early as possible and free myself to be restricted by other things. It looks like he is going to stay with me for another day tomorrow before I can hand him over to his rightful caretaker. That being said, morning cardio is always a  refreshing thing as it energises you for the rest of the day—I think I should do it more often, especially when the mess is serving nuts at dinner again. When that happens, I would smuggle a little bit each night and snack on them as I watch TV. I am sure this is preventing me from losing more weight but snacking is life! I do so much exercise because I have this habit of snacking, which definitely makes camp life more bearable. The cashews are so well-roasted—once I start I simply can't stop!

The gaudy Christmas decorations were put up in the office overnight (pictures at the bottom of the post) which gave me a rude shock when I entered the building this morning. Real tacky that's what it is. But hey this is PNG and you are in a camp, you can't really expect top-notch anything. I heard that the Christmas dinner in camp is spectacular—too bad I can't stay to enjoy that. Haha! Anyway the back-to-back of my site boss has finally arrived and being new on site, I can see everyone (especially that grumpy old man) trying to influence him to their own way of thinking. This doesn't bother me a single bit as I don't play politics at work—never has and never will. Hmm... it seems my travel request to the faraway site for my next rotation hasn't been approved yet—I better push the new boss so that it gets approved before the end of my current hitch. Oh, which reminds me—I think I need to buy a new luggage seeing that I am now travelling quite a bit and the ones back home are really old and not working very well. I wonder if I should really invest in a good durable (ie. expensive) one as I am quite sick of crappy suitcases failing me in my time of need. Work-wise, I have been spending quite a bit of time troubleshooting a piece of software that isn't working correctly with the application's expert (ie. the visitor I am still babysitting because no one wants to do it) and even he could not explain some of those anomalies. I guess we'd be devoting even more time and effort fixing those bugs before I can finally execute all those alarm changes. And..... that meeting finally took place and the alarm changes have finally been approved. This means that I can officially move to the next phase of uploading the changes and that the execution of these changes is just a matter of days away! Hopefully with that I will earn a nice spot in my site boss' good books, like how I have already managed to impress the project manager (ie. my Brisbane boss)—he sent an email: "just a quick note to say that I was impressed with the level of detail that went into preparing for the MoC – thanks for your efforts" and he cc'ed my site boss. FUCK YEAH!

Crap! There is a karaoke competition held in camp on 31-Dec!!! I would so win this contest! If only I am not on break then... I hope the social committee brings this back again some time (not on the 31-Dec again as I would miss that too since my contract would most likely not be extended beyond 2015). Sigh. I even have a song in mind already if I were able to join. Anyway the good news is my travel request to the faraway site for three weeks in my next rotation has been approved by my new site boss. By the way, I just noticed he is quite hot! He has a very good posture and a chiselled built (he is one of the rare ones who look good in unflattering safety gear) as well as a cute face—miles apart from his fat and old back-to-back. I am going to enjoy "working under" my new boss. Hehe. Talking about my contract ending in December 2015, I am seriously reconsidering moving with boo to London (I know he is desperately trying to move there), which is sort of a continuation of our original plan to relocate to UK. I will re-establish communication with the London Process Manager about September 2015 and sound him out. If they are still in need of people, I will start applying for my work visa whilst in PNG so that I can move straight to London in January 2016. A lot of people have encouraged me to just quit my job in Australia and look for a new job there since there is plenty of work in that region. That was exactly what I did when I moved from Singapore to Sydney in June 2008 but now I am older, wiser and certainly more jaded and risk-averse, I am not sure I am that comfortable with going through that all over again!

The door to my room was found open when I woke up in the morning again! I must really ensure that it is firmly closed every night now and not just assume it will be! Luckily everything in room is still there but I might not be this lucky next time. And talking about luck, how lucky must I be to encounter the muster alarm when I am working out in the gym just next to the muster location? At first I thought it was just a siren test that went wrong and didn't leave the gym. I did speed up my workout (and hastily finished it) when I discovered that people are beginning to muster as they walked past the gym. I then got changed just in time to be one of the last people to reach the muster location. I was sweating like crazy when I arrived and I only told one person where I actually was so as not to get into trouble. It was just a drill as I expected. In the meantime, the application expert I have been taking care of has, with my help, uncovered lots and lots of errors in the way the system has been configured which caused a lot of background problems that no one knew about but are very serious issues. We are still working at correcting these faults, which must be done before I could actually properly execute those alarm changes that took so long to get approved. Haven't I told you it was all fun and games in PNG? Also, because of a useless training that I have to attend back in camp, I missed the Sunday barbecue on site. That's not a big deal though because I have already attended quite a few of them so far. Because of the budget cuts, the barbecue menu is shrinking so I guess I am increasingly missing less. Anyway there is always a problem at these barbecues when everyone has to cut through meat using plastic utensils as there isn't any metallic ones on site.

The made-to-order grilled menu in the mess has been removed until further notice and I think this was because of some kitchen equipment malfunction. I was told by the head of the kitchen that there are many pieces of equipment there on the brink of breaking down and there are no stocked spare parts in the warehouse. In my opinion having the kitchen working and in order is much more important than having the plant operational because if you can't feed the workers well, they will not be able to perform their day-to-day jobs well either. So it is really strange why this camp doesn't attach as much significance to kitchen equipment as compared to plant equipment. Well, I think I will survive without my grilled fish dinner... for now. Looks like the bugs in the application required to execute my alarm changes are growing as we dig deeper and deeper into the system. I think at some point we have got to stop correcting faults and start using the application in its imperfect state and as  long as the key components are working fine we should just proceed. At this rate, I will never be able to finish this work before I leave on Christmas eve and that worries me a lot. as I have already promised my boss that I am able to deliver this work within my current rotation. Who knows what kind of grief I'd be given when I return in January with the alarm changes still unexecuted (I know my back-to-back will definitely leave that for me to complete as he lacks the expertise to do the job properly). I guess I still have some days before the end of my hitch to improve the situation but time is ticking away fast. On an unrelated note, there has been a hostage situation in downtown Sydney and I have been following the news closely on TV. This world is getting more and more dangerous and it seems that there is nowhere on this planet that is safe anymore.

The laziest and most unmotivated person I need to work with has left for yet another week-long training and then he would be off for his break after that. I really don't know why he doesn't need to do any actual work at all! The thing is that control systems always appear as a black box to people not in the know (and that is most people). So people who are doing control modifications can easily fool others to believe what they are doing require a lot of work. This lazy person is fooling others that way all the time and because I have some background on what he's doing, I can see through that irksome behaviour. When I was told that the meetings I will be chairing in my next rotation won't involve him, I was so freaking happy but I just discovered that he will actually be in those meetings after all (because the original attendees I arranged know even less than him)! But there is still a chance of that not happening because of logistical problems. Fingers and toes all doubly-crossed. Even if I manage to not have him on my team, I am still going to be stuck with that not only lazy but also grumpy old man who is so hard to talk to and work with. Today, he came into my room and asked me when I need him to finish all his action items as he thought that what I was doing could be delayed by his overdue actions. I clarified by saying those alarm issues he had been left to deal with were not part of the work that I'm doing right now. He also accused me "jokingly" that I have lost interest in the project (as I have not been pushing him to meet his deadlines as much as I did in my previous hitch) without knowing that I have been focussing on the most important part of the project ie. the execution of all identified changes, or the thing that bosses can use to show their bosses that the project is progressing. This grumpy old man is not my boss and I couldn't care less what he thinks for I know my work had already impressed the people that matter. Also, today is the visitor's last day on site (I am finally free!) and I have finished loading in all the alarm changes (an amazing feat). However I can only execute these changes on Friday due to a crew-change in the Production Team. I am almost at the end of the road now... I just have to push on!

The past seven days have been hectic and draining and I hope that my last week on site would be less stressful—one can always hope. See you in a week!


Chris said...

That's an odd week. Nuts are good for you, even with all the fat they have. So eat as many as you can.

Why would going to the gym while there's a muster alarm going be a bad thing? I'm confused.

As for finding bugs in the application, this always happens. When I was working in software testing, I would look at the list of bugs and the list of features and prioritise the features that were essential and fix the bugs in them. But, of course I'm sure you're doing that.

And the food problems are worrying. If they are requiring you to be on site all the time and eat their food, they need to provide food that's appealing and wholesome. Get after them to give you better food!

Kim said...

They don't always serve nuts at the mess, it depends on suppliers being able to provide them but point noted, I will eat them with glee!

When the muster alarm sounds, everyone has to stop what they are doing and muster ie. site emergency procedures activated. I should really be stopping gym when I heard the alarm but I didn't. Guess it really didn't matter in the end.

Yeah, lots of bugs but we have worked towards correcting most of them but a few cannot be fixed until they release the next software patch and there is no plan for that currently.

The food issue has been complained by multiple people over a period of time and still nothing has been done (perhaps the complaints didn't get to the right people - I will speak with the head of the kitchen when I next see him). That is why people take the trouble to drive all the way back to the camp to have lunch. It is the poor operators who have to suffer since they cannot leave the control room.

I have set up my PayPal account and sent you a request by the way. Watch out for that.